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Thirty pages of ideological poison - #TUbill

© nuj

19 October 2015

We must defy this bill and defend civil rights and trade union liberties.These were the overwhelming messages delivered at a rally at the House of Commons to protest about the trade union bill.

The bill, now passing through parliament, threatens the basic right to strike.

For the first time, employers will be able to break strikes by bringing in agency workers to cover for strikers. The bill proposes huge restrictions on peaceful picketing and protests. Striking workers will have to tell their employer all their plans – including what they will post on Facebook - two weeks before they strike.

Named “picket supervisors” will be expected to wear armbands and can be asked to produce a letter showing they have been given permission to go on strike.

It will give excessive new powers to the certification officer, the regulator for trade unions and employers’ associations, and will allow the officer to be investigator, judge and jury of trade union activity. Unions will have the privilege of paying for the new powers.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, told a packed committee room in parliament:

"This is a show of utter contempt for six million trade union members and utter contempt for civil liberties and human rights. Our members working for Newsquest on newspapers in south London had to go on a 10-day strike to get  management to even talk about giving some of their colleagues as much as the London Living Wage.
"This dispute had cross-party support. We even had Tory MPs visit the picket line. It also took a dispute to get one of our reps Phil Turner on the Rotherham Advertiser after he had been victimised and singled out for redundancy for his union activities.
"It is vital for us to preach to the unconverted and explain that once they have dealt with the unions they will turn to deny civil liberties to others. We must be prepared to collectively defy this legislation and, if it becomes law, we will have to square up to them and say, 'Bring it on'."

Protesters against the bill TUCG©

On the platform were a range of MPs, trade union leaders and representatives of activist organisations brought together by the Trade Union Coordinating Group.

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, said it represented a an existential threat – it was  a scorched-earth policy aimed at those who want to protect public services. He promised to fight it all the way. He said:

"The Tories know the unions have the numbers, experience and history to tackle the government and that is why they are trying to destroy us. If it is in parliament or on the picket line, I'll be there to defend our right to strike."

Hannah Bardell, SNP fair work and employment spokesperson, said the bill was an attack on fundamental human rights. Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said: "We must be united in opposing this bill. It is a vindictive assault on workers' rights. If we lose it on the floor of the house we must fight it by peaceful protest on the streets."

John Hendy QC said the bill was illegally illiterate and fall foul of international and European law which gives workers the right to organise and bargain collectively. He said: "We have defeated anti-trade union law and we can do it again." Professor Keith Ewing, his co-author of Protect the right to strike: kill the bill, held up a copy of the bill and called it 30 pages of ideological poison.

There will be a lobby of parliament, organised by the TUC, on the Trade Union Bill on Monday 2 November. Book a meeting with your MP. Full details on the TUC website. The NUJ is organising a delegation to attend. If you want to participate in the NUJ delegate to the lobby on the day then please email: 

You can follow Defend our civil liberties -- stopping the trade union bill on Facebook.

Tags: , trade unions, trade union rights, strike, legislation, trade union bill, rally, tuc, labour party britain, green party, snp, caroline lucas, john mcdonnell, john hendy